Theater Review: “Steel Magnolias”
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, come sit by me.”
My favorite line from the play written by Robert Harling in 1987, which was then made into the classic movie, “Steel Magnolias,” in 1989, is currently playing at Sycamore Rouge Theatre, located in charming downtown Petersburg,VA, our neighbor to the South. If you haven’t been to Sycamore Rouge it is a beautiful venue, a very relaxed setting with tables and couches, lit by candle light, small appetizers, drinks and desserts are offered to enjoy throughout the show. I was probably the most comfortable during this performance than I have been at any others I have attended.
This production was directed by Shanea N. Taylor and there were several familiar faces from the Richmond theatre scene in this cast and I was very excited for this production, as Amy Berlin, who plays Ouiser, is a personal favorite of mine.
Many of the performances were strong: Sarah Roquemore, played the quirky, goofy, über-Christian, Annelle, the “new girl” and boarder, at Truvy’s Beauty Salon in Chinquapin Parish, Louisiana. Roquemore really captured Annelle’s awkwardness and was the strongest performance in this production. Carolyn Rose Hayes plays salon owner Truvy and I really enjoyed the throatiness of Hayes voice: it was very soothing and appropriate for the eternal optimism that is embodied by the Truvy character.
Crystal Oakley plays M’Lynn, Shelby’s mother, played by Claire Biggers, whose wedding day is the center of the first act. Oakley gave a strong emotional performance and Biggers was likeable as Shelby, but I have always had a problem with the Shelby character because no matter who performs Shelby they always come off as one-dimensional.
The town’s token eccentric, rich widows, Clairee and Ouiser, played by Jacqueline Jones and Amy Berlin, were fun to watch and strong individually, but the dynamic between them just wasn’t there. These ladies are supposed to be decades-old friends, even though they fight most of the time, and I just didn’t feel a connection between the actresses playing the parts.
Philip Milone’s set was well appointed and all of the actresses did a good job of creating the illusion of a wall of salon mirrors in front of the stage, as they would pretend to look into the “mirrors” to talk to other actresses behind them. Kay Renee’s costumes were decade appropriate although there were some fit issues with Oakley’s (M’Lynn) pants as they were visibly too big and very baggy. My friend, who attended this production with me, also pointed out that it was very obvious that Oakley was wearing a wig. Also Hayes’ (Truvy) hair was a tad frizzy and the color was blotchy, which normally I wouldn’t care so much about, but she is supposed to own a salon. All and all this was a very sweet production and fun to watch.
“Steel Magnolias” is playing through May 20th (including a show on Mother’s Day). Showtimes are Fridays and Saturdays at 8p.m. and Sundays at 4p.m. 804.957.5707 Box Office. www.sycamorerouge.org
Jen Maciulewicz is theatre critic for GAYRVA.com and is a Richmond local. Jen attended VCU and holds a B.S. in Anthropology. She has starred as Reno Sweeney in Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes" and attended VCU’s School of Music. Follow Jen on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jenlaumac.
“If marriage became legal in Virginia, would you marry me?” Payne asked. Harrison responded “every day.”June 22, 2015
- Theater Preview: Steel Magnolias at Barksdale Theater, July 12, 2013
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